First Indoor Climbing Gym Opened in Saudi Arabia

Climbing is a relatively new sport to Saudi Arabia, but it is fast gaining popularity, thanks to a Dammam gym that has opened its doors to novices and professionals alike.

Dyno Gym, the Kingdom’s first indoor climbing gym, has become a hotspot where first-time climbers and experienced professionals can meet to share advice and swap stories.

The gym’s co-founder, Mohammed Banjari, told Arab News that climbing is more community-based than most sports, and can serve as a great physical activity that allows friends and family to bond.

After climbing in other countries and returning to Saudi Arabia, Banjari asked his friends how the sport could be introduced in the Kingdom, where it is often misunderstood.

“I first thought climbing was not competitive and serious. But when I was exposed to the culture, I realized that it is a lot more serious, and requires critical thinking and teamwork, almost like solving a puzzle with your body,” he said.

Dana Al-Buainain, a 29-year-old female climbing instructor at the gym, said: “Climbing is very much a liberating experience, where you are forced to let go of any hindering thoughts and face your fears straight on. It’s more than just a physical sport, it’s a mental game, too.”

She added: “Climbing has taught me resilience and to never give up, and to accept failure and falling as a part of the journey to get to the top.”

Climbing is a beginner-friendly sport as well. Dyno Gym has an orientation program to teach beginners and first-timers the basics and how to reduce the risk of injury.

“As with any sport, if someone is interested, they can start with the easiest levels designed for beginners and then work toward more complex climbs,” Banjari said.

Demand for climbing spaces encouraged the Dyno Gym team to build an indoor climbing space. “The conditions can also be controlled inside a gym, and in an environment as hot as Saudi Arabia’s, it can be a key feature,” Banjari said.

As people spend increasing amounts of time sitting in front of a screen, health experts and sports authorities are encouraging sedentary individuals to “get up and move” as part of a healthier lifestyle.

“Climbing can help counter youth depression and it’s considered a confidence-boosting, endorphin-releasing activity. It also promotes social bonding because it’s seldom done alone. This makes it the perfect family or friend group activity,” Al-Buainain said.

Banjari agreed, saying that “even if someone starts off alone, once they get to know people who frequent the gym, they will find themselves in a community.”

He added: “Personally, with time, the gym became a regular hangout with a climbing component to it. So, even if I am too tired to climb, I will still visit and just hang out with my friends, and that is the biggest appeal.

Along with other gyms across the Kingdom and the world, Dyno Gym has felt the effects of the global pandemic. The Kingdom’s small climbing community is another challenge.

On a broader scale, the gym owners’ goals are in line with Vision 2030.

“Maybe by practicing we can help Saudi climbers improve and reach the level of international climbers, and compete in the Olympics,” said Banjari, adding that he hopes to expand the gym’s services across the Kingdom.

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